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Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday, remembering that God revealed himself to us in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The doctrine of the Trinity is central to Christianity; it describes the relationship among the three members of the Godhead. In the book,Christian Theology in Plain Languagethe following is written concerning the Trinity:
Within his own mysterious being God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The designations are just ways in which God is God. Within the Godhead thereare three “persons” who are neither three Gods nor three parts of God, but coequally and coeternally God. (Page 143)
The doctrine of the Trinity created problems for some in the Christian faith and certainly for those of other religions. It basically says that 3 = 1; the three distinct identities of the Godhead equal one God. Perhaps trying to explain the concept of the Trinity to someone who is not a Christian is one of the most difficult tasks undertaken. Throughout history people have argued that Christians couldn’t have it both ways, either Christians believed in one God or in three different Gods. People of other faiths were known to say that Christians were compromising the unity of God by saying God was three persons. Even today the doctrine of the Trinity still creates difficulties and questions. Some questions often asked about the Trinity include the following:
- How can the God of the universe be born in flesh and live a human life?
- Are the three divine persons really distinct from one another?
- If Jesus was God and died on a cross then was it really God who died?
In thinking of these questions I am reminded of an article I read where the person interviewed commented that the doctrine of the Trinity is an unquestionable doctrine of the Christian faith. The person stated the reason the concept of the Trinity was unquestionable is that Christians from the time of the early church have found no other way to express what God means to us than to say, “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Today’s lesson from Paul’s letter to the Romans communicates to us a great lesson in regards to the Trinity. Paul writes that we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Sprit that has been given to us. Paul expressed the Trinity in another way when he wrote in 2nd Corinthians:
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” (2ndCorinthians 13:14).
While we may not be able to adequately explain the Trinity we believe like Christians across the ages, what the Trinity represents. We believe that God is our Father in heaven; we believe in Jesus Christ our Savior, the Son of God who died for our sins; and we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the living Lord who dwells within us and interacts with us. This morning we will look at these three ways in which we have come to know God.
First, we experience God as Father. Dante Alighieri, the great poet of the Renaissance and author of the Divine Comedy, lived in a restless age of political conflict between popes and emperors. His home of Florence was particularly torn between these factions and Dante was eventually forced into exile. Although dejected by this cruel turn in fate, he was determined to walk from Italy to Paris where he could study philosophy in an effort to find clues to the questions of human destiny. During the course of his travels, he became very weary and found himself one evening knocking upon the door of a monastery to find refuge from the bitter cold. A brother within the monastery was finally aroused from his sleep and came to the door, flung it open and in a gruff voice asked, “What do you want?” Dante in a single word answered, “Peace.” Likewise, for some people until they know God as Father they experience restlessness in their lives; they have no sense of peace. This restlessness is often because people are alienated from our Creator, the one who created us in his image for the purpose of having fellowship with him. Just as rebellious children destroy relationships with their parents, we also break our relationship with God through sin. To avoid this alienation, we must acknowledge the sin in our life and confess these sins to God, realizing that God will forgive us. In God’s forgiveness, we have a profound sense of peace because we are bound together with our Heavenly Father.
Second, we experience God as Son, the Savior.A bumper sticker I have seen over the years says the following, “No Jesus, No Peace” and underneath it says, “Know Jesus, Know Peace.” This is so true because it is through Jesus that we have peace and we come to know God. Through our relationship with Jesus we experience what Paul described in verse 2 as, “this grace in which we stand.” Paul goes on to write in this chapter in Romans the following:
“But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Let’s remember that Paul himself was once Saul who persecuted many Christians for their beliefs. He did not personally know God until he had his Damascus Road experience. In the book of Acts we recall how he was blinded and met the resurrected Jesus who asked him why he was persecuting his followers. Days later upon being filled with the Holy Spirit, his eyesight was restored and he came to trust Jesus as his Savior and became one of our greatest Christian missionaries. For Moravians we have often been described as a religion of the heart. At the heart of our faith is our relationship with Jesus. The Moravian Church is a Christ-centered church that takes a very practical approach to the living out the Christian life in a day-to-day experience. We believe people can know God in a personal way and in their relationship with Jesus find hope and meaning in life.
Finally we experience God as Holy Spirit. The Spirit teaches us, sharpens our minds and expresses to us the reality of God as Father and as Savior. In thinking of the Holy Spirit, I’m reminded of the story from the great evangelist D.L. Moody who while speaking to an audience held up a glass and asked, “How can I get the air out of this glass?” One person shouted, “Suck it out with a pump!” Moody replied that would create a vacuum and shatter the glass. After numerous other suggestions Moody smiled, picked up a pitcher of water, and filled the glass. “There,” he said, “all the air is now removed.” He then went on to explain that fulfillment in the Christian life is not accomplished by sucking out our sins here and there, but by being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Our gospel lesson from John this morning refers to the Spirit of Truth. Jesus calls us to follow the Spirit of Truth by living the truth, embodying the truth and becoming witnesses of truth. Back in 1992, Steve Martin starred in a movie called Leap of Faith. He played the role of a con artist, a faith healing evangelist who doesn’t even believe in God. His truck broke down in the town of Rushwater, Kansas. While awaiting parts for his truck he decides to set up a revival there. A drought had been going on for several months and the people of the community are poor but somehow Martin the evangelist puts on a good show and the money starts coming in to support his “ministry.” One night at a revival something happened to expose that Martin was a phony. He had met a boy in a cafe and struck up a relationship with him in order to impress his sister, a waitress in the cafe. She was not impressed at all with Martin’s character and in fact believed he was a phony. During the revival the boy came forward and asked to be healed. Martin tries to ignore him but he walks up on his crutches to the stage and walks up to the cross and prays for healing. The young boy tossed aside his crutches and begins to walk which was truly a miraculous event. Martin knew at that point that indeed there was a God. Following the revival after everybody left, Martin begins to feel guilty and asks God why there were so many gullible people in his midst. His character realizes that he can no longer continue this life of deception, even though thousands now are coming to his revival. In the end he leaves his truck and ministry behind and begins walking away. As he starts to walk away the rain begins to fall, the drought in this area was broken. The rain like the waters of baptism washed over him as he decides to begin a new life filled honesty and integrity.
We too are filled with a new life through our belief in the Trinity. When asked about the Trinity I have sometimes said this doctrine is like a road map or perhaps in more modern terms like a GPS system. For those who like to travel, road maps or a GPS are a necessity. However the maps on both are symbols of real places, not the places themselves. A person cannot experience a place by merely studying a map or viewing something on a GPS. We have to get out of our home and travel to these places.
On this Trinity Sunday, remember we must journey in faith to the places where God can be experienced. Together let us strive to know God three ways!
The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr.
May 27, 2018